Health care reform passed the House, but it still needs to
pass the Senate. One controversial rule could make that difficult
or impossible: the filibuster. Though the House passes
legislation by a majority, the Senate needs 60 votes to break
the threat of filibuster. Since Democrats hold 59 seats (plus
Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman), a single lost vote can kill
legislation. As health care reform legislation moves to the Senate, a
number of moderate Senators have threatened
to uphold a filibuster, prompting liberal pundits to think if there's any way around it. Could the dreaded filibuster be abolished outright?
- Why Dems Must Abolish Chris Bowers argues
that the political calculus should be crystal-clear to Democrats. "If
Republicans make a net gain of three Senate seats or more in the 2010
elections (which is pretty likely according to current polling),
Democrats will simply not be able to achieve cloture on any major
legislation put before the Senate," he writes. "If only 51 votes are
needed to pass legislation through the Senate, it
would effectively be the same thing as Democrats gaining 10 seats in
the Senate. No matter what political price Senate Democrats may face
for the apparent hypocrisy or partisanship of destroying the
filibuster, it can simply never equal to a net Senate gain of ten
seats. We are just not going to lose ten Senate seats because we
destroyed the filibuster."
- Unconstitutional Filibuster The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein insists Senators should disregard the filibuster. "There is nothing
preordained about this wholesale disregard for majority rule. In fact,
it violates the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution, which
expressly delineates a limited number of instances in which anything
other than a majority vote is required," he writes. "To get things started, it will be necessary to put Vice President
Biden in his rightful constitutional place as presiding officer, where
he should make clear he'll do whatever is necessary to restore majority
rule to the Senate, even as he jealously protects the rights of the
minority to blabber on as long as it wants and offer whatever
amendments it thinks necessary. And if that means overturning some
outmoded precedent laid down by some dead predecessor, so be it."
- How To Do It Chris Bowers explains
how to end the filibuster. "Get seven Democrats in the Senate to support
eliminating the filibuster, even when Republicans are in the majority,"
Bowers writes, explaining that, once Republican retake the Senate
majority, those seven Democrats could join them in voting to abolish.
"Once we have seven Democratic Senators in support, they will
collectively present a letter to the entire Democratic Senate caucus
stating 'either destroy the filibuster now, or see it destroyed when
Republicans are in charge.' At that point, I would hope that Democrats
would respond by destroying the filibuster while they still have a
majority. However, if we have to wait until Republicans are in charge,
so be it."
- Here Are Your Seven Daniel De Groot finds
a 1995 initiative to kill the filibuster, which was supported by seven
Democratic Senators still in office. "Ruling out Lieberman of course,
that leaves 7 living Democratic
Senators who have actually voted to significantly damage the power of
the filibuster." This would provide the seven Senators needed for
Bowers' plan. De Groot notes, ironically enough that the 1995 effort
was spearheaded by Sen. Lieberman, who now threatens to support a
filibuster against health care.
- We Need An Anti-Filibuster Leader Matthew Yglesias asks
where the leadership is. "Key elements of Senate procedure have been
throughout history and there have been failed efforts to do it that
might have worked had folks been a bit more determined. What's missing
right now is any sign from anyone politically important of any interest
in turning up the heat," he writes. "But I've seen no sign of a serious
public campaign of pressure from
Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or other leading figures to
delegitimize this minoritarian obstruction."
- The Case Against Abolishing Kyle Mathews makes it. "The flaws of the filibuster
are well known, but eliminating it outright seems certain to fall
victim to the Law of Unintended Consequences. Moreover, it would
effectively end any and all checks and balances on majority power in
the Congress. To break the power of the filibuster without giving
dual-branch majorities carte blanche, including the power to ram
through war authorizations and such."
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